The Importance of Rest Days
There's often the common misconception that the more, the better. Don't get me wrong; it is healthy and beneficial to maintain a consistent schedule to match your personal needs. But rest is just as, if not more important, to protect your physical and mental health stay in tip top shape! A distinct line is drawn between pushing yourself and overtraining to the point where you're damaging your own body. An extremely critical part of your workout regime is the process of recovery.
Why do rest days matter?
Reduces the risk of injury!
When you are fatigued, you change your form or use unhealthy techniques to push through it. Over time, if you continue to strain your muscles and overtrain, you could lead to more damaging effects upon your body. In contrast, rest allows you to prevent those self-caused injuries.
Improves your performance!
If you place yourself in a constant loop of training and exercise, you could decrease your motivation and your ability to push yourself to the limits you strive for. Rest will continue to prepare your body and increase energy.
Consistent sleep schedule!
There must be balance and moderation when it comes to exercise and rest. While exercise also benefits your sleeping habits, overexercising can lead to an overproduction of energy-boosting hormones that can prevent you from sleeping well. Taking some time off allows your body to reach equilibrium.
How do you know when you need a rest day?
With the highly competitive and self-achieving mindset of today's society, people often don't want to admit or feel that they need a break. As cliche as it sounds, you should always listen to your body- it will let you know when it's time to rest!
Are you struggling to stay awake during class? Are you reaching for your third cup of coffee? If weariness and tiredness begin to infiltrate the rest of your day, then you probably need to take some time to recover your mind and body.
If you see that you're not doing as well as usual or you don't seem to be matching your highest level, it can be a sign that your body is being overworked.
Soreness after a workout is natural, and it even shows that you've really worked at those muscles effectively! However, if you're persistently feeling sore and achy for more than a day or two, your body likely isn't being given the appropriate time to recover.
Poor mental health
The very nature of sports is mentally challenging. But if the struggle exceeds your workouts and starts affecting your day-to-day emotions and moods, then you're most likely experiencing burnout or mental fatigue. Your mind is a muscle, and you probably need to take some time off to recover mentally.
What should I do on a rest day?
It can be hard for athletes to imagine spending a day without training, but it's crucial for staying competitive! Rest days are the perfect opportunity to develop your identity outside of sports, which will help you stay resilient when challenges, such as injuries, arise. Here are some do's and don't's for rest days:
- Engage in a hobby
- Get caught up with schoolwork
- Get some sleep
- Spend time with friends and family
- Stretch or do gentle yoga
- Get a massage (if feasible and appropriate!)
- Take a short, slow walk
- Take a bath
- Continue fueling adequately - your body needs lots of food to recover!
- Engage in moderate to strenuous exercise (NO spin classes, pilates, swimming, or runs!)
- Beat yourself up for not training
- Spend too much time on screens
- Restrict your food intake - this will hinder your performance!
Special considerations for rest days
Endurance sports (running, swimming, cycling)
It can be harmful to train too intensely or too long. Since endurance sports typically require repetitive movement, it predisposes you to overuse injuries. Try to mix up your training schedule with walking, slow dancing, yoga, and jogging. But remember to have days where you don't train at all!
There should be a rotation of what muscles you are working so that you can give the others a break! That way, your muscles can heal and recover. Creating a schedule to assign different muscle groups for each of the days you plan on working out can help!
Before a big competition, tournament, or race, definitely take a rest day! Your body needs time to repair the damage, replenish its glycogen stores, and prepare for optimal performance.
What's the best time to take a rest day?
There really is no "right" time to take a rest day; it differs for each person. Taking rest days is not "weak" or "lazy"; it shows your commitment and dedication as an athlete! Staying healthy does not mean exerting yourself every day but finding that right balance that works specifically for you. Ultimately, exercise and working out is simply a way to relieve stress and stay active! It shouldn't be something that adds on to your plate of worries. Take a break, relax, and you'll get right back into it stronger than ever!
"8 Reasons to Take a Rest Day." ACE Fitness, www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/7176/8-reasons-to-take-a-rest-day/.
Nunez, Kirsten. "Are Rest Days Important for Exercise?" Healthline, www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/rest-day#signs-you-need-rest.
"Why Rest Days Are Just as Important as Working out." The Active Times, www.theactivetimes.com/why-rest-days-are-just-important-working-out.